Monday, 29 August 2011

Eurovision goes country

Those of you who know me will probably know that my two great musical passions are country music and the Eurovision Song Contest. Not two genres that naturally fit well together, I admit, but in this blog entry I'll take a look at nine of the songs that were entered for this year's contest (though didn't get there), which wouldn't necessarily sound out of place on US country radio.

Babel Fish – Depend On Me
Who'd sing it? Rascal Flatts

The first time I heard this song, I was immediately reminded of the group Rascal Flatts. The slightly straining falsetto in the chorus and the sentimental lyrics are very reminiscent of their work, and this song would fit right in on one of their recent albums. I'm not sure they've ever had a stage show that involved looking through the window of a cardboard house though.

Dalma – Song for Him
Who'd sing it? Gretchen Wilson

Dalma puts on the growls a little too much for them to sound authentic, but there's a decent country song at the heart of this – or possibly two or three different country songs. There's a bit of a kiss-off and there's a couple of broken hearts; I'm not so sure about the silliness at the end though – it works well enough as a song without having to be a pastiche.

Evija Sloka – Don't Stop the Dance
Who'd sing it? Pam Tillis

The lyrics are a little questionable, and the accent is all over the place, but there's no mistaking the country influences on this song that never really stood much chance of making it through a Latvian selection. Sloka lists Brad Paisley and Alan Jackson as her dream duet partners.

Hanne Sorvaag – You're Like A Melody
Who'd sing it? Jewel

In 2010, Eurovision fans were comparing Swedish singer Anna Bergendahl and her song 'This Is My Life' to Jewel's earlier work, but nowadays she'd be more likely to record songs like this Norwegian finalist. It's very much at the pop end of pop country, right where Jewel's recent albums have positioned her, and the feelgood similes hold together very well and would fit right in on contemporary country radio.

CH – Gid nif uf
Who'd sing it? Keith Urban (he basically already did!)

Other than being sung in Swiss German, this song sits right in the Keith Urban-school of country music, with pumping beats and a prominent electric guitar line, but it's grounded by the fiddle that runs right through the arrangement. The song's so committed to sounding like Keith Urban that it even steals the entire chorus melody of the Australian's 'I Told You So'.

Yohanna – Nótt
Who'd sing it? Carrie Underwood

It's not really country, but this track would fit right in on a Carrie Underwood album, particularly in its English version, with its considered lyrics and a silky melody that takes off into a crescendo for the last chorus.

Carmel Eckman - Nosa'at el ga'agu'ay
Who'd sing it? Sarah Jarosz

To be honest with you, Israel is more or less the last place where I'd expect to find a song like this. It's a gentle, acoustic ballad, with a lovely strummy guitar and a fiddle break in the middle. Unsurprisingly, it came almost last.

The Lucky Bullets – Fire Below
Who'd sing it? Justin Townes Earle

I was absolutely astounded when I first heard this in the Norwegian preselection, as it sounds so authentically rockabilly – not a hint of the slight 'foreignness' that often blights Eurovision songs that are trying to be very American. I was even more impressed when the Norwegians voted it into third place in the final, and I even got to cheer for it in person!

Pernilla Andersson – Desperados
Who'd sing it? Kathleen Edwards

Perhaps less country and more Americana than some of the songs on this list, 'Desperados' was one step away from making it into the Melodifestivalen final. The gentle chugging beat, the savoured chords and Andersson's velvety voice combine to make this my favourite song of the Eurovision season.

I'm sure many of you will disagree with the singers I've chosen to record these songs, so I invite you to post your suggestions below. And clearly, some of them would need quite a bit of changing and improvement before the singers mentioned would even consider going near them, and they might not take too kindly to being connected to them (sorry Pam Tillis!). But this is Eurovision, I have to take what I can get!

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